The African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) said on Friday relative calm has returned to the central Somali town of El Baraf after Al-Shabaab militants were flushed out.
Col. Serge Mpawenayo, one of the commanders of the Burundi forces serving under AMISOM who led the takeover operation, said normalcy has finally returned to the sleepy town of El Baraf, following the collapse of the seven-year-rule by Al-Shabaab militants.
“The residents were very unhappy because they were forced to pay illegal taxes to Al-Shabaab. Others who did not pay were even forced to give up their children or constantly be terrorized by Al-Shabaab militants,” Mpawenayo said in a statement from AMISOM.
The Somali National Army (SNA) backed by African Union forces late February seized the town, situated 26km south of Jalalaqsi, in a push aimed at recovering lost territory and expanding government control and influence in the horn of Africa country.
In the past decade, the town had remained closed to the outside world, as Al-Shabaab reinforced its stranglehold, imposing illegal tax and engaging in other draconian acts that violated rights and freedoms of many of residents.
Mpawenayo detailed the misery in which the residents were forced to live in.
“As a result, many residents were forced to flee the town after it became apparent that Al-Shabaab militants were not ready to compromise on their autocratic rule that infringed on basic rights,” he said.
However, El-Baraf is now bustling with activity unlike before when it was very difficult due to the presence of the militants.
Traders are back on the streets, selling foodstuffs and other merchandise, and, in the open spaces, farmers are busy herding their livestock.
Residents said that since the arrival of SNA and AMISOM troops the situation is changing for the better. They can now go out and eke out a living without fear of losing their earnings to Al-Shabaab.
“The situation is getting better and it is different from before. We can now go out and earn our daily bread,” said Abdulkadir Yusuf Ali, thanking AMISOM and SNA for their intervention.
Delighted children can be seen running to greet AMISOM forces, a clear testimony that a good relationship is beginning to thrive between the soldiers and local residents since the town’s liberation.
“The district is 100 percent peaceful except a few attacks that happen on the outskirts of town,” observed Ahmed Hai Mohamed, a local resident. – See more at: http://hiiraan.com/news4/2016/Mar/104620/relative_calm_returns_to_somali_town_after_retreat_of_al_shabaab.aspx#sthash.VV0MZmF3.dpuf